Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

18.33 27 Jul 2020


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The Government has pledged that their €375 million plan will allow the full reopening of schools at the end of August.

The Cabinet has signed off on the plans, which will include more than 1,000 new teaching posts at post-primary level to help reduce class sizes.

That includes 120 guidance posts, 600 extra teachers, and 360 posts for schools having most difficulty reopening.

A new roadmap recommends that primary pupils and teachers work in 'class bubbles' which stay apart from other classes as much as possible - including having separate breaks and meal times.

Meanwhile, classes themselves will be separated into 'pods' of smaller groups of students, with at least a metre between the different pods.

However, officials acknowledge that keeping one metre between younger children is a challenge - so that social distancing rule will not apply to the classes up to and including second class.

The Department of Education says a 'one size fits all' approach would not work for secondary schools.

They have therefore have put forward a number of recommendations for individual schools - including using all available space in the school to maximise social distancing, and to consider the use of live streaming within the school where needed.

It says schools should consider face coverings or visors for 'exceptional circumstances' when social distancing is not possible for larger classes.

Entire schools may not need to close if there's an outbreak of COVID in the classroom under the plan.

Outbreaks will be handled individually by a COVID officer within the school following public health guidelines.

€84.7 million will be provided so that schools can employ replacement teaching staff, SNA and administrative staff when staff at high risk of COVID-19 are advised to cocoon.

Over €40 million, meanwhile, will be available to provide primary schools with substitute staff when teachers cannot come to work due to coronavirus symptoms.

Funding will also be provided to fund four to six hours cleaning per day in schools, in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Relief days will also be available for working principals.

'Remote learning is not enough'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said their plan allows for extra staff, extra funding, clear guidance and new supports.

He said: "The closure of schools on March 12th was a moment when everybody understand the dramatic nature of the pandemic.

"The harsh reality is that on every personal, social and educational level that remote learning is not enough.

"Reopening our schools represents an unprecedented policy and logistical challenge... it will be backed by substantial resources."

On school transport, there won't be social distancing on the bus, but students will have to sit in assigned spots next to a relative or person from their class group.

Masks on transport for post-primary will be mandatory unless they have an exemption.

Meanwhile, a designated individual in each school will be designated to oversee COVID-19 response, including dealing with cases where students may fall ill while in the building.

Education Minister Norma Foley said any cases or outbreaks will be dealt with by public health officials - and individual classes may be asked to self-isolate without the whole school having to close.

Main image via Sean Defoe

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